After surviving two years of teaching high school and middle school, I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied until I could teach college. So when I got that phone call inviting me to interview for the community college position that hadn’t been funded the previous year, I drove westward to another small, rural town. High on a hill in the middle of cornfields and cow pastures stood a brand new brick campus, beckoning me to move my family yet again.
As usual, I was offered the job a mere three weeks before classes were scheduled to begin. Don’t administrators understand that teachers have families, too? By this time, Cass was in her eighth month of pregnancy. Yet there we were, packing up a U-Haul truck for the 100-mile drive to our new apartment, then schlepping boxes and furniture until well past midnight. Eight months pregnant? I still had trouble keeping up with Cass before we both collapsed onto an air mattress on the living room floor that first night, Jenn sleeping between us. For her, this was another of life’s adventures. For Cass and me, it was another of life’s unwanted yet necessary chores.
New faculty were required to participate in a four-day orientation the first week of September, held at a historic inn in Letchworth State Park, which would become a favorite place for Cass and me to visit over the years.
I was put up at the less-historic lodge a long walk from the inn with two roommates, one a Ceramics teacher from Philadelphia, the other a recently released prison inmate beginning his teaching career in the Social Services. (The planners were wise to separate us from the other newbies in the main building!) We made quite the trio, we three hippies, showing up late for every meeting and sleeping late every morning.
We devoured three gourmet meals-a-day in the lodge restaurant! And torturous educational seminars each morning, afternoon and evening. Ugh.
You might think I should have been thrilled to enjoy such largesse. But when your wife’s anticipated Labor Day is September 8th, you can imagine my feeling of abandoning her in favor of the responsibilities of a new job, made worse by our decision that she would deliver our new baby 100-miles to the east, near the town we had spent the previous year. After all, she had grown attached to her OBGYN and wasn’t about to let a stranger bring baby #2 into this cold, heartless world. Each night, I had nightmares of a phone call from Cass telling me her water had broken. How would I get her to the hospital? Indeed, I had discussed this in advance with the college dean, asking to be excused from the orientation. He refused to allow me to miss even one day of the four-day workshop, suggesting instead that in the event of early labor, I could leave . . . if required! ‘Here we go again,’ I thought. But Cass and I decided to avoid yet another unpleasant Lesson in Life before the first day of classes had even arrived. Trooper that she was, and still is, she assured me she could hold out. Actually, maybe ‘hold in’ would have been a better assurance!
Labor pains started on Friday, the day after the orientation ended. How considerate of our new baby to accommodate my teaching schedule, as if sensing the tension we were enduring. We drove the 100-miles to the hospital, and I walked the halls with Cass as she prepared to deliver. In those days, a few forward-looking doctors believed that walking was far better preparation for delivering a baby than bedrest. At the last moment, as she waddled into the delivery room, she turned and looked back at me suddenly, as if we had overlooked something important.
“Jeff! What if it’s not a boy?” she asked, eyes wide.
All this time, we had assumed by the shape of her belly and from family prognosticators that we would have a boy to complement our Jenn.
“Uhhh, I don’t know!” was my usual dumbfounded reply.
“What about Jessica?” she managed to shout as her doctor scooped her up onto the delivery bed.
“Sounds good to me!” was all I could manage before doc screamed at the head nurse.
“Get him out of here! I have a baby to deliver!”
Jessica quite literally fell into the warm hands of the world. Tuesday, I drove the 100-miles back to school for my first full day and evening of classes, returning to the hospital the next morning to gather my now family of four for the drive to our new home. Believe it or not, I got my first dose of administrative grief for missing that second school day, praying this was not an omen of things to come. (It was.) We four settled into our new life together, Jenn soon insisting on being the designated ice-cream-giver to her young sister. What a sight! They’ve been best friends ever since.